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In observance of World Press Freedom Day, CEMESP urges government to improve relations with media

(CEMESP/IFEX) - The following is a 2 May 2007 CEMESP statement:

In Observance of Press Freedom Day:

Monrovia, May 2, 2007 - The Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP) has called upon the Government of Liberia to make more efforts towards respecting the rights of journalists to freely report in line with their conscience.

In a statement issued in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, CEMESP expressed its belief that now ought to be the best time for the people of Liberia to benefit from the fullest extent of freedom of the press, considering the democratic mandate upon which the current government came to power.

CEMESP, which is the only Liberian member of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), regretted that the latest monitoring of press freedom around the world shows a declining standard in Liberia in respect for press freedom and free expression.

CEMESP noted that since the last press freedom day, there have been more than 20 attacks on the press through various means, including an increasing number of threats of lawsuits by public officials, censorship and suspensions at the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System and numerous assaults on journalists. Also reported over the year were cases of illegal detention and harassment, threats of exclusion from public functions, death threats from anonymous sources and the now controversial closure of the Independent Newspaper.

CEMESP regrets that these attacks were meted out against the press by several groups and actors, especially and including government functionaries, ruling party fanatics, opposition politicians, security personnel, as well as sports personalities and student protesters, and regards all of these vices as a betrayal of the Liberian people's quest for democracy, which must necessarily be corrected.

CEMESP then challenged the government to stand up for its belief in freedom of expression, and to take appropriate actions against officials who have been found culpable of threatening, abusing and assaulting journalists in the line of duty.

On efforts being made for the improvement of press freedom in Liberia, CEMESP is also calling for increased participation and efforts by the government to enhance the media law reform process, especially with regard to the passage of the freedom of information act and the transformation of the Liberia Broadcasting System into a public service broadcaster.

On the international scene, CEMESP has joined calls for the immediate release of BBC Reporter Alan Johnston, who has been in secret captivity for more than 50 days. CEMESP sees the unlawful detention of Mr. Johnston as an attack on the civilized world's plan to expose the problems in Palestine in order for people of goodwill to help bring peace to that part of the world.

Meanwhile, CEMESP has challenged journalists, other media personnel and believers in democracy to see the observance of World Press Freedom Day as an opportunity to renew their belief in freedom of expression and to stand up for democracy in Liberia.

Malcolm W. Joseph
Executive Director

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